There's No Place Like Your Second Home

Private Property South Africa
Property Professional

My friend Daphne, with whom I worked in an agency in Sandton when I first started out in this business, took a break from selling real estate to have babies…by the way, why is it called ‘real’ estate? I never have worked that one out. It’s a bit like that football team Real Madrid. Is there, perhaps, a fake Madrid? Is there such a thing as fake estate? Ask anyone who bought what they thought were bits of the Johannesburg CBD back in the early 1900s only to find that they were buying Church Street in the yet-to-be developed Johannesburg North. Admittedly the estate existed (so it was real) but it was in the bush where the lions and tigers roamed and would only be developed almost 100 years later. That’s the problem with buying off-plan – particularly when you are in London and you’ve never even visited South Africa. There’s a sucker born every minute and that’s why I love this job so much.

Which brings me neatly back to Daphne after that historically fascinating perambulation. After Daphne had her babies and packed them off to school, she moved with her husband to the Eastern Cape and very quickly became bored, as one does in that part of the world. So she approached an estate agency and talked about getting back into the business. Since she had enjoyed a pretty good reputation in Sandton and was still attractive enough not to scare away potential buyers, she was put in charge of selling a new development of what would become holiday homes in one of those depressing coastal resorts that have popped up all along the East Cape. She did remarkably well because that was in the days when nobody stopped to ask themselves whether they really needed a holiday home. The banks were begging people to borrow money and the allure of owning a second home convinced many people to go heavily into debt just to impress their friends.

Now the very people she sold to a few years ago are begging her to get them out of their ‘idyllic’ lifestyle homes, but there are no buyers. Daphne may have to move back to Johannesburg (she is now divorced and the kids are at varsity) because people who have now become trapped in this holiday home hell keep bumping her trolley at the supermarket.

I’m not going to mention the exact locations but I’m sure you’ve all got a fair idea of the sort of places I’m talking about. The views are spectacular and it’s the sort of place you fall in love with when you visit for five days. So much so that you sign up to build a house bigger than your real home in Johannesburg. A house that will be buffeted by the elements in low season and will need constant maintenance. A house that you might use for four weeks of the year if you’re lucky and will remain shut up the rest of the time. A house you eventually paid R5million to build because you thought you couldn’t afford Plett. A house in a small town with a water supply and road system that can cope with 4000 people at best, but not with 12 000 at holiday time. You see where I am going with this?

Not to mention the duplicate furniture, white goods and things like flat-screen TVs you have to buy when you own a second home. Is it any wonder the second home market’s fl at and Daphne is living on dog food? The smart money had already worked out that you would need to spend at least three months a year living in a R5million mansion just to break even on the deal. Then there’s the location. One thing we agents have drummed into us on courses is the importance of location. St Pauper’s Bay may be very nice but it ain’t Clifton and when the market’s in a bear phase nobody is going to buy. The real question, though, is this: Is anyone going to fall for that hogwash again should the economy recover? My guess is no. Who wants to go on holiday and find no water and crowded roads?

Besides, as any estate agent worth her salt knows, if you want to spend three weeks by the sea every year it’s much cheaper to rent than it is to buy and maintain a home.

Article courtesy of and is taken from their July/August 2009 Issue.

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